Sometimes people tell me their problems and I don’t know what to say. I want to fix everything for them. I want to give good advice and solve all their problems. But as it turns out, I’m just a kid and I haven’t learned how to solve very many problems yet.
When I don’t have answers I wonder why people tell me their problems in the first place. A friend tells me about trouble with her husband. I listen. I sympathize. I encourage. But I don’t solve her problem. Another friend tells me about trouble with her kids. I don’t even have kids but I listen, and sympathize, and encourage anyway but still solve no problems.
The other day Mr. Husband was telling me about a problem at work. It was a complicated thing—something to do with reading through 100’s of pages of blueprints and specs trying to find an answer. He was getting frustrated and I was getting confused. He knew I knew nothing of what he was talking about. I don’t read blueprints and I don’t solve aerospace conundrums. But he told me all about his problem anyway and I sat and listened anyway.
And that’s when it occurred to me: He doesn’t care if I solve his problem; he just wants me to listen. Of course I have no answers. Of course he will still have to figure this problem out on his own. But sometimes it helps just to talk things through. Sometimes you find the answer you’re looking for just by talking through a problem out loud.
So now I see when my friends tell me their troubles, they aren’t necessarily looking for answers. Maybe they’re just looking to be heard and understood. Maybe they just need to talk through a problem out loud. Maybe they just need to know they aren’t alone and when they need to talk they have someone who will listen.
I’m learning to be that person who will simply listen. I may not have answers but I have two ears, and sometimes, two ears are the only answer anyone needs.